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Two Conferences. Two Experiences.

Katie Richard on

July was a crazy month for the Wiredcraft team. We successfully hosted JavaScript Conference China 2015 (lovingly known as ShenJS) bringing over 600 JavaScript aficionados to Shenzhen.

After finishing a hectic two-days of ShenJS, the team traveled 5,218 miles (8,398km for metric readers) to Berlin for Tech Open Air Conference (TOA).

We had a blast meeting both communities and geeking around. However the two conferences approach was very different and we believe you can learn from what we believed worked and what could be improved.

By the Numbers

ShenJS TOA
2 days 3 days
21 speakers 110 Speakers
630 tickets sold 5,134 tickets sold
18 Sponsors 54 Sponsors

What was awesome at ShenJS?

NodeBots at the ShenJS afterparty

Let’s give out some of the candy first:

  • The speakers knew their sh*t. You could ask them a question and they were prepared to answer and could easily engage with the attendees.
  • JavaScript Galore. Focused on JavaScript, with some big names in JavaScript coming to speak not only on software but JavaScript implementation in hardware.
  • Professional Venue. Water was restocked on chairs at every break, and no matter where you were in the room you could hear and see everything (even beers!).
  • NodeBots first time in China. The combined NodeBots and afterparty on Saturday was a great success. Attendees and speakers alike got to play with JavaScript application to real hardware while throwing back a few.
  • Lightning talks. Allowed anyone a chance to share their perspective.
  • Increased visibility across China. Increased presence of Hong Kong, Taiwanese and Asia at large attendees at ShenJS.

Lightning talk at ShenJS

What could be improved on for ShenJS?

We had a lot of feedback, these are the most recurring ones:

  • More outside activities and lounge areas. If someone wasn’t interested (or suffered a language barrier) with the speaker than they would have something else to do.
  • The Wifi was weak. With some many people trying to access the internet we aim to have a better way to support access for next JS Conf China.
  • AMA with the speakers. AMA sessions or real time online questions to help facilitate speakers and attendees overcome language barriers or shyness.
  • Weibo and Twitter. The conference goers were awesome at sharing on social media but there was no way to connect platforms. (Twitter/Weibo/Zhihu)

What was awesome at TOA?

TOA Hardware Tent

The MINI Hardware tent. Startups showing off their ideas before the Hardware pitch including a smartpen, 3D printing and a portable sound system.

What struck us as beneficial to the event:

  • Flexible and adaptable volunteers. When things went wrong they fixed it fast and kept attendees in the loop.
  • Something for everybody. Music, tech, business, marketing, art, (redbull) etc..
  • Live streaming outside. The weather was beautiful, so it was nice to kick back outside on bean bags (even on chairs made out of hay) and watch the main stage speakers.
  • Products and demonstrations. We loved getting the chance to fly drones and check out the hardware tent and playing with some products.
  • Easy to network with other attendees in the lounge areas and product areas. Twitter made it easy to make new friends.
  • Free booze and lots of it.

What could be improved on for TOA?

TOA Speaker

We thought a few things were lacking, mainly:

  • Dive deeper. The talks were a bit meta and introduced ideas but were shallow due to time constraints. The AMA helped, but due to the packed schedule AMA’s conflicted with other talks.
  • Overbooked satellite events. Unless you were on your game and planned ahead you missed half the conference because of the booked Satellite events.
  • Cool, but disconnected venue. Being at the back of a packed room and columns made it difficult to connect with the speakers and ask questions.
  • No strong direction. The topics were all over the place and it was going everywhere and anywhere. Some talks were fabulous and you could learn a lot while others very self-helpy and others felt like sheer product promotion.
  • Where the coding at? No strong code related tech talks (never saw a line of code or any application of development). We liked the accessibility for the laymen but it would’ve been nice to see some of the behind the scenes.

TL;DR

ShenJS was very detail and technology oriented and focused on code. We even had some live coding occur. TOA on the other hand was more an introduction to technical ideology, methods, and products. We would’ve liked to see a bit more “substance” at TOA especially on some of the main stages and have more side events happing at ShenJS.

Since ShenJS was a more straightforward conference in term of venue, everyone had a very similar experience; think 1 room and 1 speaker at a time. TOA’s satellite and many stages made it impossible to see it all and everyone had a different and customizable experience. Which can lead to very a higher mix of experiences and personalities.

The team was thankful to have the chance to experience something different with TOA. We will take what we have seen at TOA and bring the best of the “unconference” mentality to JS Conference China.